Sunday, August 9, 2020

New York Attorney General Gunning for the NRA

If the nation were any more divided, then we would be occupying two different planets.  As I have written, and indeed you all know, there is no issue that cannot be politicized.  Would any of us, for example, have ever divined that the wearing of masks during a pandemic would become a fractious political issue and not a simple public health measure?   I’ll bet that if a legislator wanted to offer a proclamation honoring the nation’s mothers, that some quarter of our society would challenge it on some basis.

Earlier this week, the Attorney General of the State of New York (AG) announced that the National Rifle Association (NRA) was so systemically corrupt that it needed to be dismantled entirely.  She levels serious charges of corruption against NRA leadership and has hinted that there may also be violations of the IRS code, which presumably would invite a federal response.

I heard her discussing the charges earlier today on a liberal cable station and to my ear it sounded like political grandstanding.  Keep in mind that her charges are allegations – not yet proven – and the NRA deserves a presumption of innocence.  The AG spoke as if the NRA’s guilt were assured and that future legal proceedings would serve as a formality.  

I think this is highly improper behavior, and even dangerous, particularly for a state’s highest law enforcement official to engage in.   It sets the wrong example for the public suggesting that we regard those who are accused of an offense as if they are guilty prior to due process.  I suggest that a more judicious and proper stance would be for prosecutors to be very measured when discussing charges against individuals and organizations.  This would reinforce to the rest of us that we should keep our minds open and presume innocence as best we can.

I am aware that the presumption of innocence does not apply in civil matters, but as a matter of principle, I believe that the public and the legal community should refrain from making judgements, particularly public pronouncements, at the stage of allegations.

Why, then, would she assume such a public posture?

  • Might we infer that she has animus against the NRA judging by her 2018 statement prior to her election that the NRA are terrorists?
  • Might the AG, who has suspected ambitions for higher office, be making a political play?
  • Might the AG be attempting to taint the jury pool?
  • Would the AG also be calling for the total dismantling of liberal organizations, such as Planned Parenthood or the Sierra Club, if there was alleged corruption in their leaderships?

My own view is that NRA officials who are accused of corruption should be prosecuted, without calling for a total take down.  And, calling an organization ‘terrorists’ at least suggests that her judgment were not made without fear or favor.  And, if she believes in the presumption of innocence and due process, and she wants us to as well, then she should act like it.



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